How to Value a Neck Injury For an Insurance Claim or Settlement

Common issues that arise in neck injury claims, plus examples of settlements and verdicts in these kinds of personal injury cases.

By , Attorney · University of Michigan Law School

There are too many unique factors in any given personal injury case to predict the value of a neck injury claim, but there are commonalities to consider, and lessons to learn from past cases. We'll start with some examples of real-life verdicts and personal injury settlements involving neck injuries, then cover some key factors in figuring out what a neck injury claim might be worth.

How Both Sides Value a Neck Injury Case

"Valuing" a personal injury case in this context often means coming up with a best guess at what a jury might award the person who is suing for a neck injury (the plaintiff), and then estimating:

  • what the person being sued (the defendant) would be willing to pay, and
  • what the plaintiff would be willing to accept to settle the case before trial.

Regardless of which side is doing the calculating, the two big factors in valuing these kinds of cases are the extent of the plaintiff's injuries and other losses ("damages" in legalese) and how likely the jury is to find the defendant at fault for the accident that led to the neck injury.

Nature, Severity & Duration of the Neck Injury

Neck injuries range from minor whiplash-like strains and sprains to spinal disk damage and cervical fractures. In general, the more severe and long-lasting the injury, the higher the compensation in a personal injury insurance settlement or jury verdict. Additionally, "hard" injuries like a fractured bone (cervical fracture in the case of a neck injury) tend to result in larger settlements than soft tissue injuries like whiplash or pinched nerve (cervical radiculopathy). Learn more about how the nature and extent of injuries affects claim value.

Type of Medical Treatment Matters

Fair or not, many insurance companies will gauge the seriousness of an injury based on the nature and cost of the medical treatment required. A neck injury requiring spinal fusion or another surgical intervention will be "worth" more than a strained neck requiring a few weeks in a brace. Similarly, injuries requiring treatment by physicians—as opposed to chiropractors, or even physical therapists—are given more weight by many insurance adjusters. Learn more about how the "right" medical treatment increases injury settlement value.

Estimating Damages

Estimating the potential recovery with any degree of accuracy is quite difficult for one main reason: at trial, it will most likely be a jury that ultimately decides just how much money the defendant must pay the injured plaintiff.

Some damages, like medical bills and lost income, are fairly easy to quantify. But for subjective damages like "pain and suffering," predictions are at best an educated guess based on awards in similar neck injury cases. Because every case and every jury is different, even the best analysis will still only predict pain and suffering damages within a broad range.

Another key is how the neck injury affects a particular plaintiff. For example, if the plaintiff is an avid violin player, but can no longer hold the instrument properly because of the neck injury, his damages based on "loss of quality of life" will likely be higher in the eyes of a jury.

Similarly, if a plaintiff had a preexisting neck injury, her damages might be reduced since it might not be possible to tie the defendant's actions to all of the plaintiff's current pain and suffering.

Proof of Fault (Legal Liability)

The other major factor in valuing a case is the likelihood a defendant will be found liable at trial. If the plaintiff has little or no evidence proving the defendant was at fault for the accident that led to the neck injuries, the value of the case goes down considerably. Even if the potential damages are high, a defendant will be less willing to settle and more inclined to take their chances at trial. Similarly, the plaintiff will be more inclined to accept a low settlement rather than run the risk of getting nothing at trial. Learn more about determining fault in a personal injury case.

If someone else was at fault for the accident that led to your neck injury, the best way to get information that's tailored to your situation is to talk to a lawyer. Get tips on finding the right personal injury lawyer for you and your case.

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